CRN's contention is that molecular manufacturing -- the most transformative application of advanced nanotechnology -- will affect the world on the same scale as steam engines, electricity, or computers, but with all the revolutionary alteration of societies and environments taking place in just a few years, instead of over several decades.
Economists have a term for the profound disruption of business, politics, nature, and people's lives brought about by dramatic innovation: they call it creative destruction. It's what happens when a society is transformed by rapid technological advances.
But how rapid is rapid?
The first industrial revolution, triggered primarily by the adoption of steam power, lasted about sixty years, from around 1780 to 1840. In comparison to earlier rates of change, this transformation was startling and painful for many. Its overall impact certainly can be seen as positive, but the creative process undeniably had destructive effects on countless individuals, families, businesses, and societal structures.
Succeeding forms of industrial revolutions -- based on the introduction of railways, the steel industry, electricity, the automobile, computers, and so on -- each took place over a matter of decades. They also had similarly mixed results: arguably beneficial for society as a whole and for some individuals, but harmful for many individuals and for many segments of society, not to mention the environment.
Our intent here is not to question the value of these prior innovations, but to point out the relatively lengthy span of their general impact. That will not be the case with molecular manufacturing, the next industrial revolution.
The ability to build anything we can design, by manipulating molecules under direct computer control, will be a jolt to the system -- a transformative, disruptive, discontinuous jolt to ecological, economic, political, and social systems -- on a local, national, and global scale.
It is not exaggeration or hype to say that the combined impacts of nanotechnology will equal all the industrial revolutions of the last two centuries -- but with all that change compressed into just a few years.